I believe it was Bill Simmons of Grantland.com who first coined the idea of a pyramid rankings system. His was for the Baseball Hall of Fame, where the most elite players were aggregated in the top tier of a pyramid (but not ranked) and it was built downward from there.
Here's a look if you're confused about what I'm talking about.
On Monday I was being interviewed about the PGA Championship and one of the radio hosts I was working with mentioned that he thinks Jason Dufner is in the second tier of active players and asked what I thought. I answered the question but in my head I was thinking, "That's a freaking great idea for a column."
So here we go. Here's what I'm calling Porter's Golf Pyramid, where I rank the active golfers in pyramid form (small at the top, wide at the bottom):
|Top tier: Truly elite|
Tiger Woods: When you win as many times in eight months as the sixth-best golfer in the world (Matt Kuchar) has in his career, you get to be in the top tier.
Phil Mickelson: For all I know, he could be in Tier 3 by February, but for now there's no question where he goes.
Adam Scott: Not only did he win a major in 2013 but he tied Jason Day for low aggregate score across the four big ones at 2 over. The best swing, and maybe the best major player, in golf.
|Second tier: Best in the world, not quite elite|
Jason Day: It's weird to put Day in this category when he has only won one tournament but he played as consistently as Scott across all four majors. He'll get his soon.
Matt Kuchar: Another guy who has won twice in 2013. I think one of the big stories of 2014 is going to be him getting his first major.
Dustin Johnson: Was 17 over at the US Open and still managed to crack the top 10 on the aggregate major scoreboard. I think he joins Kuchar, Snedeker, Tiger and Phil as multiple tournament winners this season.
|Third tier: Really good, capable of winning any major|
The second and third tiers were the most difficult to choose between and if I had more time maybe I would be able to break it down better. I really struggled with what to do with Stenson, Bradley, Rose, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. All could be in either group.
|Fourth tier: Solid, steady, capable of winning any tournament|
None of these guys really leaps off the page at me as somebody who is an elite "I will definitely be on the Ryder Cup team and compete in pretty much every major" golfer. There are guys who could make the leap, for sure, but this is the right spot for now.
|Fifth tier: The underrated group|
These are guys who are largely 50-100 in the world but are better golfers (and currently playing better) than you think. Most are pretty young and any of them could eventually become top 10 in the world someday.
This is where everybody else lands.
Ultimately this is an exercise in categorizing guys who play a volatile sport. Our perception of athletes ebbs and flows with each passing tournament (especially the majors) but as it stands right now I think this is where these guys belong.